First Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 5 reviews mazda first drives
2013 Mazda CX-5. Click image to enlarge

More Mazda CX-5 reviews on Autos.ca

Manufacturer’s web site
Mazda Canada

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2013 Mazda CX-5

Monterey, California — It’s not every manufacturer that will put a compact SUV on a race track for journalists to test. The track is usually reserved for the introduction of sports cars, sport sedans and luxury brands.

The track – in this case, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the best tracks in North America and known for the treacherous “corkscrew” – has a way of bringing out the best and worst in a vehicle.

Few manufacturers have the confidence to let journalists flog any new vehicle, let alone a compact, 4-cylinder powered wagon, unfettered by passenger seat coaches or a pace car on a leash.

Yet such is the confidence of Mazda in its new compact SUV, the 2013 Mazda CX-5 and the Skyactiv technology underpinning it.

First Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 5 reviews mazda first drives
2013 Mazda CX-5. Click image to enlarge

Mazda has chosen a different path to energy efficiency than most of its competitors. As a small company, it has decided to eschew electrification and hybrid technology in favour of ultra-efficient engines and transmissions and weight reduction to achieve fuel savings across its vehicle portfolio. The 2013 Mazda CX-5 is the first vehicle to receive the full Skyactiv treatment.

Skyactiv represents a blend of technology designed to maximize performance, minimize emissions and reduce weight, all with the goal of lowering fuel consumption. Every nut and bolt has been redesigned – and that is not a metaphor – with a view to saving grams of weight. Every component of the vehicle, the body, the chassis and suspension, the transmissions and the all-wheel drive system are lighter and stronger than the pieces found under most other vehicles.

Without getting into the finer details of Skyactiv – Jim Kerr will provide his technical perspective in another article – the CX-5 is powered by a 2.0-litre gasoline engine with a skyscraper compression ratio of 13:1. Higher compression ratios mean more power, but they are also prone to pre-ignition or knock without really high octane fuel. Pre-ignition is caused by hot exhaust gases that remain in the cylinder after the exhaust valve has closed igniting the incoming fuel mixture before the spark. Mazda solved this problem by attaching a four-into-two-into-one exhaust manifold, a header in hot rodder terms, to evacuate the hot exhaust gases. It is a simple solution that works.

First Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 5 reviews mazda first drives
First Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 5 reviews mazda first drives
2013 Mazda CX-5. Click image to enlarge

Transport Canada has given the 2013 Mazda CX-5 fuel consumption estimates of 7.8 L/100 km (city) and 5.7 (highway) for the front wheel drive model with manual transmission, a best in the compact SUV segment, while the automatic with front-wheel drive is rated 7.7 city/6.1 highway and the all-wheel drive model 8.0 city/6.4 highway.

The 2013 CX-5 is also the first of a new generation of Mazda vehicles to incorporate the company’s new design language -”Kodo” or “motion in soul” – characterized, thankfully, by a new five point grille. The new compact SUV departs radically from the boxy Tribute that it replaces, with a taught, ready to pounce stance (Kodo is inspired by the speed, grace and strength of a Cheetah), a long hood, sharply angled A-pillars, sloped C-Pillars and raked rear back window, prominent fenders and wheel arches wrapping a choice of 17- or really big19-inch wheels, and wing-shaped headlights and tail lights.

The CX-5 is a careful blend of sports car design and compact SUV functionality. While the instrument panel – now featuring white illumination – draws its shape from the MX-5 Miata, the seating position is high and in command, providing great visibility in all directions. Cloth (standard on GX and GS models) and leather (standard on GT) seat trim is available. Rear seat legroom is better than expected, thanks to a segment leading 2,700 mm (106.1 in.) wheelbase, while the available 40/20/40 one-touch folding rear seat will make converting from people hauler to cargo hauler as easy as pushing a button. With a cargo capacity 966 litres (34.1 cu. ft.) behind the rear seats and 1,852 litres (65.4 cu. ft.) with the rear seats folded, there is plenty of room inside the CX-5.